I love working in maternity triage. It’s the A&E of the midwifery world and the hub of activity. It’s the first port of call for every woman during their pregnancy if they have a concern. Which also means we get some funny calls. Over the years I’ve heard of a fair few:
- One lady called, she’d taken a pregnancy test 10 minutes earlier and wanted to let me know it was positive. 1-2 weeks by the clear blue indicator. When will her labour be?
- Another, her mum had sneezed on her. She needs antibiotics stat. She’s got a presentation on Monday and can’t have a cold, (lets not get into antibiotics for viruses right now).
- A lady called with bleeding, severe in nature. I asked, “Are you wearing a sanitary pad?” understandably alarmed. Her reply “No, I’ve cut my finger?”
- “I’ve just swallowed some chewing gum. I’m sure the baby is chewing on it now. I’m terrified it’ll choke!”.
Unfortunately, this was not a piss take, and in fact, she was deadly serious about her fear. I spent 10 minutes explaining anatomy and physiology with a bad “cough” (it is the only time in my whole career I’ve ever laughed, I am not proud that I did).
Maternity triage is a strange place. Whilst I get the funny calls every now and again, I get a lot of calls with women wanting reassurance. It is our “bread and butter”. I welcome these calls with open arms. My job is to reassure you and answer your questions, even if they do make my top ten!
Many women may have the impression that triage midwives are the gatekeepers of the unit. In some cases this may appear to be true. I’m sure every midwife knows a colleague that tries to keep the beds empty and put off women coming in. I, myself, would never take this attitude, and neither would the other midwifery staff, these midwives are very few and far between.
The downside to these rare breed of midwives is that it creates a distrust between the mums and the staff, “Is she telling me to stay at home because she doesn’t want me to come in, or because I am actually ok to stay as I am?” and then the fear mum’s have of calling in and feeling silly for asking for reassurance. I will never make you stay at home, if you’re worried and I can’t reassure you, that’s enough for me. If you feel you are being fobbed off ask to speak to another member of staff or the midwife in charge. Don’t sit there feeling inadequate. There are many cases where it is more than safe for you to stay at home. But it isn’t wrong to ask for a second opinion.
I warn you, during your pregnancy there will be many false alarms. I’ve had a few myself, even though I know what to expect. A few weeks ago I thought I may be having contractions. I wasn’t, but it didn’t make those tightenings hurt any less! I felt like a real twit when nothing happened and we went to bed merrily for a good nights sleep, we thought it may be our last… we were wrong.
As a mum-to-be you will always think, “But what if…” for every single twinge. Embrace that. I don’t want you to be wrecked with anxiety for the whole 40 weeks but please don’t be afraid to ask for advice. If you call 100 times or just 1 time, it isn’t counted against you. If just once in those 100 calls there is a true problem, you may have saved your baby’s life, or your own.
A few things you must ALWAYS tell a midwife about are:
- Headaches, visual disturbances (like flashing lights in your eyes or floaters).
- Swelling on your hands, feet and face (feet get swollen routinely in pregnancy, so don’t panic if you do get “cankles” per se. I would call to be checked though).
- Persistent itching on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.
- If you think your waters may have broken (put a thick sanitary pad on and call the hospital).
- If you think you’re in labour with contractions lasting around 60 seconds coming every 4-5 minutes. Or if you have more than 5 contractions in an hour if you are less than 37 weeks pregnant.
- If you have any bleeding (from down below).
- If you have any trauma to your bump.
- If your baby is moving less than you are used to if you are over 26 weeks pregnant.
Lastly and most importantly
- If you are worried about ANYTHING with you or your baby.
Please don’t be afraid to ask. It’s only a telephone call. If I can answer your question and make you feel better, then you’ll sleep more soundly tonight.
As for me. I’ll continue to have my false alarms exactly the same as every other mum-to-be. I will feel silly. But overwhelmingly I’ll feel reassured that although I was concerned, there was nothing to be concerned about. Even as a midwife, I’m not immune to that!
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